It started on West Virginia's first possession. The ball went in to Devin Williams in the post, who missed a short shot. Diving into the line from the perimeter, Eron Harris grabbed the rebound. He wasn't able to convert the second chance shot, but he didn't let that deter him.
The very next trip down the court, the sequence played out again. Williams missed another shot in the lane, but Harris again flew to the boards and grabbed the miss, this time converting the resulting shot for a 2-0 lead.
These weren't isolated incidents. The next trip down, Williams grabbed an offensive board.Adrian Natahn grabbed another one, and in the next couple of minutes two more misses were contested and slapped off the hands of Loyola foes to stay in WVU's possession. Fewer than five minutes into the game, the Mountaineers had seven offensive rebounds. Considering that WVU averages fewer than 12 per game on the season, it was clear that the tone was set.
Making the overall rebounding performance all the more impressive was the fact tat players like Nathan Adrian (nine), Juwan Staten (ten) and Eron Harris (seven) got to the boards on both ends consistently. Even Remi Dibo, who isn't a rebounding force, snared four.
What made WVU so effective on the offensive glass, where it finished with a whopping 29 on the night? According to head coach Bob Huggins, it was mostly a case of just getting there, especially from the outside, where the Mountaineers take the majority of their shots.
"You gotta go," head coach Bob Huggins said of the key to getting offensive rebounds from perimeter players. "I told Remi, 'You have to go'. He said, 'Coach, I tried.' I said, 'No, no, no, no, no. They don't generally bounce out to half court. Go rebound the ball.'"
Huggins also pointed out that offensive rebounding from the outside is actually easier than working one's way to the boards from a spot in the lane.
"It's easier," he said of the process. "It's harder to block out out there. When you are inside you can usually only go one way because if you go the other way you are behind the backboard. Whe you are on the perimeter you can go either way and you can get a running start."
While Huggins isn't giving up on rebounding inside, he understands that his team, which will score and start its offense from the perimeter, will have to rebound from there as well. While Williams, Brandon Watkins and Kevin Noreen have to produce from in close, the aforementioned wings and guards must also help on the glass. Defensively, that will be a team approach, with everyone expected to get to the boards. Offensively, all five can't go after misses, but the third, and occasionally the fourth, player coming from the outside have to do the job. Huggins thinks one of West Virginia's offensive staples also helps on that end.
"I think that's one reason why we ahve always rebounded so well, because we have run the motion stuff," he said, referring to his take ont he motion offense. "It takes bigs away from the goal, and generally speaking they aren't as good blocking out or getting rebounds out there."
West Virginia isn't going to duplicate this rebounding feat this year, but it can continue to employ these principles in future games. In fact, it has to, if it hopes to contend for postseason play this year. Just a handful of second chance points will likely make the difference in several games this year, starting with Thursday night's road tilt at Missouri. Several players, including Noreen, Dibo and Staten, noted that rebounding was a point of emphasis following the teams' return from Mexico, and for one night at least it showed it took that lesson to heart. Given the way this team has worked and tried to execute the teaching of Huggins so far this year, it's reasonable to believe that the effort on the glass will continue.